They’re little. They’re cute. And often, you see them in groups of at least 10 or more. If you or anyone in your family served in World War II, then there’s a good chance that there’s a group of Hummel figurines somewhere around the house.
Hummel figurines resulted from the artistic merits of Berta Hummel, who was born in Bavaria in 1909. Growing-up, Berta loved to draw and was particularly fond of portraying children in her portraits. After graduating from the Munich Academy of Applied Arts, she joined the Franciscan Covent of Siessen, which would allow her to devote her life to both her faith and her art.
Several years later, Berta took the name Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel. Sister Hummel’s sketches began to appear on postcards in Germany and Switzerland throughout the 1930s and managed to get the attention of Franz Goebel, the head of a prominent German porcelain business. Goebel established an agreement with the Convent that allowed his artists to reproduce Sister Hummel’s sketches in figurine form. They were released in 1935 and immediately became a success.
At the end of World War II, American soldiers stationed in West Germany began sending Hummel figurines home as gifts. They soon became popular collectors items, especially after they started appearing in U.S. Army Exchanges. In the 1970s, Hummel values began to skyrocket when the small figurines’ popularity peaked. During this time, plates, bells, music boxes, and other Hummel collectibles were introduced.
Since that time, prices for Hummels have come down dramatically. It is difficult to get anywhere near “book value” for figurines, as there is simply greater supply than demand for most pieces. Having sold over 600 Hummels last year, I would estimate the common 3”-5” figurine without damage sells for between $25-$50. However, specialized collections like The Nativity Set can sell for $500-$1000+, while rare pieces or the largest figurines can command premiums up to $5,000 per piece. The trademark stamp on the base will help you determine the age of your Hummel with the oldest figurines displaying a crown on the bottom.
Collectors worldwide still love and appreciate the innocence of Hummel figurines. I have shipped them as far as Singapore, Australia, and even a few back “home” to Germany. Although Sister Hummel passed away over 60 years ago, her simplistic portrayal of the world around her have managed to live for generations beyond her.
The original article can be found in the March 2013 issue of Southern Neighbor available here: www.southernneighbor.com.